He had only five rounds in the 60s in his previous eight trips. He had 3-under-par 69 on Saturday for his third consecutive round in the 60s this week. Watson is 11-under on the par 5s, the key to scoring.
Best of all, he walked off the course with a one-shot lead over fellow lefty Scott Langley in the Memorial. Not bad for a guy who has never finished better than a tie for 23rd.
“It’s all about maturity,” Watson said. “Thinking around the golf course a lot better – it’s my ninth year on tour, so better thinking on the golf course is creating better shots. Hitting a lot more greens. Hitting a lot more fairways. Putting a little better this year. When you add all that up, it turns into better scores.
Watson was at 12-under 204 and in position for his third win of the year.
“I have a shot,” Watson said. “I’d like the same score tomorrow and let the boys beat me if they can beat me.”
Plenty of them should have a chance. With a bogey on the final hole, Watson’s lead shrunk to one shot over Langley, who had 67 to make it an all-southpaw final pairing today. Langley has not been in the final group since his rookie debut two years ago in Honolulu.
Hideki Matsuyama made birdie on his last hole for 69 and was two shots behind.
Adam Scott, the No. 1 player in the world and coming off a win at the Colonial last week, made eagle on the 15th that sparked another surge up the leaderboard. With a bogey on the last hole, he had 68 and is only three shots behind.
“It’s going to be tough,” Scott said of the prospect of catching the Masters champion.
“He’s playing great this year, and I just have to post a number. I’m in a good position where I can possibly post a number, and that makes life a little harder for the leader.”
The 36-hole leader, Paul Casey, had a tough enough time with 76. He still was in range, however, part of a large group four back that included Jordan Spieth (67), Charl Schwartzel (67) and Brendon Todd (69).
Watson already has won at Riviera and Augusta National this year. He has tried to make it a point of keeping golf fun – Bubba Golf, he likes to call it – instead of getting wrapped up in expectations.
His performance on the par 5s took a slight hit on the 11th hole when his drive found the water, he chose to lay up because of the front hole location and missed his 12-foot par putt. He followed by missing birdie chances of 7 feet on the 13th hole and 3½ feet on the 14th hole, a chance to build some separation.